Most people visit Blowing Rock, North Carolina, for the fresh mountain air and abundance of outdoor activities. No matter the reason or the season, it’s always a great time to visit. A tourist destination for more than 120 years, Blowing Rock is the place to leave all your cares behind, relax and unwind, or get out in nature for some outdoor adventure.
A year-round, high country outdoor playground right off the Blue Ridge Parkway, Blowing Rock is less than 2 hours from Charlotte and just over 3 hours from the capital of Raleigh. Perfect for a weekend getaway.
Things To Do In Blowing Rock
What is the best time of year to visit Blowing Rock? Anytime. Springtime is my personal favorite when everything is in bloom and there is new life everywhere. The weather in summer is pleasant and warm, but it’s cooler than in lower elevations. Fall is great for witnessing the changing colors of the fall foliage but can get very crowded. (Plan accordingly and make reservations for lodging well in advance.) Snow lovers will be pleased to visit in the winter months, but be sure to check weather and road conditions before heading up.
See The Blowing Rock
A high country must-see and North Carolina’s first tourist attraction, The Blowing Rock is just 2 miles from downtown on US Hwy 321. Over a million years old, The Rock juts out 3,000 feet over the Johns River Gorge. The views from the rock itself and the observation deck are vast and breathtaking.
Plan to spend at least an hour or more there. Give yourself extra time for picture taking and browsing the gift shop. The grounds are mostly accessible, with the exception of a few trails. Hours are seasonal and weather permitting.
Hike The High Country
A favorite high country activity is seeing the great outdoors on foot. There are many gorgeous places to hike right in Blowing Rock.
Glen Burney Trail (PDF) is a gorgeous 3-mile hike with a trailhead just two blocks off Main Street. This hike descends down an ancient native trail, through a lush forest leading to not one but three magical waterfalls — Cascades, Glen Burney Falls, and Glen Marie Falls.
Pro Tip: This trail is listed as moderate but can be strenuous as it gets steep and rocky in places.
More leisurely, flat trails in Blowing Rock include Bass Lake Trail (0.9 miles) and The Maze (3 miles). Both are part of the Moses Cone Memorial Park Trail System. There is a convenient parking lot trailhead right off Blue Ridge Parkway, and both trails are wheelchair accessible.
Visit Moses Cone Memorial Park
This 3,600-acre estate, managed by the National Park Service, features the historic Moses Cone Manor, also known as Flat Top Manor, an antebellum mansion built and owned by aristocrat Moses Cone. The impressive white-columned manor sits high on a hill with gorgeous views of the surrounding estate, including Bass Lake. The Southern Highland Craft Guild manages the manor, museum, and gift shop. More information can be found here.
The estate grounds include 27 miles of trails available for walking, hiking, and horseback riding. It is also a popular site for cross-country skiing in the winter. Pack a lunch, spend a few hours walking the grounds, then enjoy a picnic next to Bass Lake.
Hook A Trophy Trout
If you have your own gear and a license, fishing in and near Blowing Rock is plentiful in public waters. For an unforgettable experience, fly-fishing lessons, or to find some prime, private fishing holes, there are several local guide outfits to accommodate you.
My favorite is Chetola Resort Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing — the only Orvis-endorsed lodge in Blowing Rock. Other nearby outfits are Mountains to Coast and River Girl Fishing Co. For more Blowing Rock fishing spots or outfitters, check here.
Slow Down Downtown
Explore the charm of downtown Blowing Rock. Browse shops and galleries, savor a delicious lunch, relax in the park — downtown has a lot to offer.
You’ll find unique shops, galleries, home goods, and sports shops plus a bit of everything in between.
If you’re looking for even more shops, you’ll love the Tanger Outlet Mall on Valley Boulevard, just a mile from historic downtown.
For a little relaxation after shopping or to work off lunch, there’s a little oasis not far from Main Street. Mayview Lake, New Years Creek, and Annie Cannon Gardens are off Laurel Lane, all within walking distance of downtown.
Discover Area History
Spend some quality time indoors at the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum (BRAHM). A beautifully built stone brick museum on Main Street showcases the area’s rich Appalachian heritage and culture through art and other exhibits. The museum features permanent exhibits as well as several rotating exhibits that change throughout the year, so there is always something new to see.
BRAHM events include galas, talks, concerts, and workshops for children and adults of all artistic levels, including Cork and Canvas, the ever-popular painting while drinking wine workshops (ages 21+).
The unique BRAHM gift shop offers local, hand-crafted art, pottery, woodworking, and jewelry, plus books, creative kits, and tools for artists and crafters. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday. Wheelchair accessible.
Ride Tweetsie Railroad
There is so much to see and do at Tweetsie Railroad. More than just an amusement park (since 1957), Tweetsie is a big part of Blowing Rock and North Carolina history. It is fun for all ages and a special place to make memories. There are rides, entertainment, activities, dining, shops, and even a zoo.
Did I mention the train ride? Narrow gauge Engine No. 12 Tweetsie is the last surviving steam locomotive of East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad. You can take a 3-mile ride through the Carolina mountains in an open-air train pulled by her or Engine No. 190, The Yukon Queen.
Experience Extreme Adventure
For the more adventurous 50+ traveler, Blowing Rock has a host of outdoor activities for every season.
Winter sporting activities including skiing, snowboarding, and ice skating can be found at Appalachian Ski Mountain. If you’d rather just sit and relax while watching others ski, the lodge offers a variety of amenities for skiers and non-skiers alike, smoke-free, and has complimentary Wi-Fi.
Less than 5 miles away, Sky Valley Zip Tours has 10 zip lines, cliff jumping, and a 120-foot long swinging bridge. Four miles from downtown is High Gravity Adventures, an aerial adventure park next to Tweetsie Railroad.
Celebrate The Holidays
Blowing Rock is a town that loves celebrating the holidays — all the holidays. There is a weekend of July 4th activities, including an Independence Day parade. In October, dress up in your favorite costume and join the fun at the Halloween Festival and Monster March. Always a favorite, December is the month for Christmas in the Park, Lighting of the Town, and Festival of Lights at Chetola. The entire month of January hosts the Blowing Rock Winterfest.
Other popular events enjoyed by locals and visitors alike include the mid-summer Symphony By The Lake At Chetola. From May through September, on Sunday afternoons once a month is an Art in the Park festival, followed by the free Concert in the Park Series. The Blowing Rock Farmers Market occurs downtown every Thursday afternoon, also May through the end of September.
Best Restaurants In Blowing Rock
One of my favorite things to do on vacation is to eat, and Blowing Rock does not disappoint. This is in no way a complete list of all the amazing restaurants to be found in Blowing Rock, just a few of our favorites so far.
The Six Pence Pub
The Six Pence Pub is a place you’ll want to go back to time and again. It’s warm and inviting, an authentic British Pub serving both American and British fare. Our favorite dishes are bangers and mash and fish ‘n chips.
The Town Tavern
Another favorite, The Town Tavern, is friendly and upbeat. They call themselves a sports bar, but I feel it’s more than that. It’s that place where you can walk through the doors and instantly feel at home. They do serve some of the best “bar food” I’ve ever tasted.
The Speckled Trout
Serving fresh-caught NC trout and other regional dishes, as well as an impressive selection of wine, The Speckled Trout rounds out several fantastic downtown restaurants.
Pro Tip: The Town Tavern, Sixpence Pub, and The Speckled Trout are all on Main Street, and all have spacious outdoor patio seating.
Upscale but casual — a hidden gem, Bistro Roca’s menu includes New American comfort food like shrimp and grits, burgers, and pizza cooked fresh in a wood-burning oven. Open for lunch and dinner by reservation only.
Housed in the historical Manor House at Chetola Resort, Timberlake’s menu is inspired by renowned North Carolina artist Bob Timberlake. The restaurant features three comfortable dining rooms, an intimate wine room, and waterfront dining on the patio. Whether you are staying at Chetola or in town, Timerlake’s is a must.
Blowing Rock Brewing Company
No list is complete without at least one brewery. Crafting the highest quality mountain artisan beer is Blowing Rock Brewing Company, located on Sunset Drive just off Main Street. Their menu includes starters, burgers, salads, and sandwiches, oh, and craft beer.
Best Hotels In Blowing Rock
As with its restaurants, there are many options for lodging in Blowing Rock. Mountain lodges, quaint bed and breakfasts, and traditional hotels are some of the many choices. Here are a few of our favorites.
Chetola Resort and Spa
Chetola is the Cherokee word for “haven of rest,” and that’s exactly what Chetola Resort strives to provide. The 78-acre resort is one of the best stays in the Blue Ridge. Rooms include a hotel-type lodge, eight unique B and B rooms, and two- to four-bedroom condos. Enjoy an indoor heated pool, exercise room, and a full-service spa on site. Fully accessible.
Meadowbrook Inn is a quaint, tranquil four-story retreat in the heart of downtown Blowing Rock, one block off Main Street. They have several rooms and suites to fit your needs, including a 1,000-square-foot room with its own swimming pool inside. Accessible spaces are available.
Holiday Inn Express
For folks who prefer traditional hotel lodging, there is a Holiday Inn Express on US Hwy 321, just a few blocks from downtown.
So whether you want to relax with a good book overlooking Chetola Lake, are looking to chase a few waterfalls, or want to hit the slopes, Blowing Rock is the destination for you.
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